There is an old saying that “history is written by the winners.” I think this is a myth. Ask George Bush, he won two U.S. presidential elections. And so far it seems that the entire history of his tenure has been written by all his enemies, the ones who lost.
I think losers always write history. For one thing, how can you be writing when you are busy winning?
Secondly, writers are usually paid so poorly they have to teach to make a living. This also tends to make them bitter and resentful toward the winners.
For instance, a major cultural split like this began in the 19th century. During the Industrial Revolution, with its conquest of nature that brought about our modern way of life with its technological marvels and longer life spans, there was a counter movement in the arts that we call Romanticism.
These were the losers. They were not interested in the amazing inventions and industry of the time. They only saw the negative effects.
Their poetry pined for benevolent nature. Their paintings portrayed benevolent nature. Their philosophy decried the insensitive industrial progress of the emerging modern era.
And as our world urbanized, in art and literature, a romantic portrait of a lost Eden emerged, where we were at one with benevolent nature.
This belief system still survives today, although now it is represented by a polar bear standing uncertainly on an ice floe.
I was thinking about this as I sat in traffic behind a Suzuki Grand Vitara. I thought: “Does David know about this?”
Yes, David Suzuki has become synonymous with smaller cars, or no cars at all. Not to mention the popularization of science in the service of the new romantic environmentalism. And he will be here on Oct. 24 to open the new John Abbott College science building.
Abbott students are getting the morning off so they can all go and hear him argue that our competitive industrial world is leading us to a planetary apocalypse.
Which echoes many of the emotions of the early Romantics.
It is a coup to get such a high-profile speaker, of that there is no doubt. And I suppose to get Suzuki is a candid admission that the science they teach at Abbott has an environmental spin.
Some believe this is unfortunate, because pure science should be detached from purpose in order to be fully objective. But that was then and this is now. And David Suzuki is a preacher of the new science.
(Every time I hear him explain the world to us on The Nature of Things, I think of him as the voice-over of God.)
Today, the ideas fostered by the Romantics, once only worshiped in the arts, have now been embraced by science. Environmentalism rules.
They want to do nothing less than turn the tide of history 180 degrees and reverse the momentum that began during the Industrial Revolution.
Until then it is they, not the guys running the oil sands, who are writing the history.